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Clematis armandii

Clematis armandii is a classic and one of my two favorite vines, the other being hops.

Clematis armandii is the plant I walk under first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. When a garden designer or landscape architect plants something in their own garden, you know they like it. We are happy to appreciate plants in other people’s gardens but to find the plants closest to our hearts, snoop around our places. There is only so much room after all.

Evergreen clematis
The flowers are lovely, but Clematis armandii is a winner in all seasons.

I first met Clematis armandii as an undergraduate in environmental design at the University of Georgia. A girl I was infatuated with planted it everywhere she went it seemed. Wherever she moved (and students tend to move a lot), Clematis armandii and the boys were not far behind. My commitment to Clematis armandii remains, and I have made it my own…an important point when inheriting a love of plants from those around us.

Clematis armandii tends to be evergreen

On a well-established vine, you will invariably have dieback and brown leaves during winter, but do not worry about it. Cut the brown back at your leisure and have faith that generally speaking Clematis armandii will send new growth forth when spring arrives. I say generally because my mother lost a newly planted Clematis armandii Apple Blossom one fierce winter. I have read Apple Blossom may be less hardy than the more commonly grown white-flower version. I have also read that Clematis armandii is less hardy the first couple of years after planting.

Consider Clematis armandii semi-aggressive

There are vines that will swallow a house. The ones I watch out for are the ones that never die back, such as Virginia creeper. The afore-mentioned hops is super aggressive but it dies back to the ground every year. This quality makes hops welcome in any garden I plant. Clematis armandii is not a home wrecker and it is not a heavy vine (looking at you wisteria), nor does it have aggressive tendrils that may threaten masonry (creeping fig, ivy). I would happily plant Clematis armandii on structures (it may need wire to climb) and move on.

leaves - clematis armandii
Typical three leaf configuration of Clematis armandii. Leaves may brown at tips or die completely as winter slogs onward. Each leaf tends to be 6″-8″ long.

When established, Clematis armandii can be a big grower, so you generally want to account for a spread to 15-25 feet, although it is not so hard to keep in bounds. In typical vine fashion, it does tend to loll around for a year or two. I highly advise spending the extra money for a two or three-year-old plant. The price may cause a sharp intake of breath, but $50 vs. $15 will be money well spent.

I learned this first hand in my poorer days when I took the plunge and bought my first 2-year-old plant (I had watched it go unbought for an entire season, making it a 3-year-old plant by the time I stepped in). The first year was a revelation, as that clematis bypassed the whole sleep/creep trope and moved right to leaping. The fact that I planted it in an established bed with the ground cooled by the shade of autumn ferns and the paper bush was key.

Clematis likes cool roots and sunny leaves

Clematis armandii does fine in some shade, even though it won’t bloom as prolifically. Still, every clematis I have planted has done well or poorly based on how protected the root zone was. It’s just not one of those plants you can stretch outside its comfort zone. If you can provide clematis with a cool root zone and plenty of consistent moisture victory is assured.

Notes regarding Clematis armandii

  • Hardy zones 7-9. Seems to get hardier once established. Try it in zone 6 where protected in a micro-climate situation.
  • Native to China. Leaves may brown in winter. Don’t be concerned unless there is complete dieback. If there is complete dieback, the only option is to wait for Spring and hope for the best.
  • Blooms in late winter to spring. Flowers are fragrant.
  • Highly poisonous. Don’t eat it. My dogs have never bothered it, but be aware.
  • Seems to be deer resistant, both from reports and our direct experience. When hungry, deer will go after anything green, but in one garden we designed the deer eat everything but the Armandii clematis.
Clematis armandii
Clematis armandii after three years in the garden.

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